Having been working on shorter (2 minute) intervals recently, I wanted to find a race that would test that. Fortunately, this Saturday gave me an opportunity to do that around the 2019 World Championships Harrogate circuit (it's main KoM is around a 2:30 effort). Typically races around this circuit are one or two laps, so I was delighted to find that the PETA Z team on Zwift had put out a 6 lap race around the Yorkshire track for their "Matando o Corpo" (Killing the Body) race this weekend (83.1km total distance with 1464m of climbing).
The race would take just over two hours and started at 0815. I got up around 0620 (naturally) and decided that I would have a small breakfast (some oats with blended beetroot, almond milk, cocoa and a little pea protein - It tastes better than it sounds!). I started my warmup around 0745, and continued using the "Ultimate Warmup" mentioned in an earlier race blog here: https://www.more-fun-faster.com/post/3r-watopia-flat-route-race-3-laps-22-10-20-0710
The race was extremely well subscribed to, with over 80 A category racers alone. Around 30 of these racers showed a 20 minute power above my own, so I knew a top finish would be tough here, but felt pretty good after the warmup and got in the zone. This race did not have a segregated start across the categories, so I'd have to be vigilant with a total of 232 riders leaving the pens concurrently.
As expected, the usual fast start for a Zwift race did not disappoint. Although contrary to the normal "settling down" after a minute or so, this race persisted at high threshold as we made the right turn on to "Harlow Hill" (1.4km at an average gradient of 4%). I was fairly pleased with my positioning on this climb, and settled in around the top 30-40 riders. The effort for the first 4 minutes of the race to crest this climb from the start pens was 4 minutes at around 318W (4.9 W/kg).
Unfortunately, having done what I perceived to be the "hard work", a small gap appeared as the front group seemed to accelerate into the descent. I was a little slow to notice this gap (likely just happy for 30 seconds off the gas) and had to put out a strong effort to try and bridge. This gap caught a number of riders out (including my coach Ed, who was also in the race). In hindsight, what was required to close this gap, was a very strong 30s effort (over 8W/kg), which Ed did deploy. Feeling a little fatigued from the start, and partially thinking that a "little dig" may get the job done here, my acceleration wasn't as strong, and putting out around 6W/kg didn't cut it. The result... I found myself in the second group on the road.
This group ended up being around 15 riders, vying for 40th position as we approached the KoM on the first lap. Carrying some annoyance from missing the split atop Harlow Hill, I elected to push the pace a little on the KoM, to see if I could detach any riders who were hanging on after the fast start. This shelled a couple of B category riders, but nothing too serious.
As we approached the KoM on lap 2 there were 4 riders up the road (who had been dropped from the front group). I felt that the longer we left them out there, the more chance that they would accrete other riders dropping from the front group, and only get stronger (a sentiment which Stu echoed in the YouTube stream chat too!). To that end, I thought I would see if the group was motivated to push on and get them on the KoM. I pushed a little with 3 other riders on the first half of the KoM, but the pace wasn't going to be enough, it was time for a "bold move". I don't often make a lot of moves like this in a race, and it's something which the coach has suggested I try more of (it's a great way of finding your limits). Halfway up the climb, I saw the opportunity to make the bridge to the group in front. I ramped up to around 6W/kg for the rest of the climb and got the gap down to 5s. I then had to keep the pace up on the descent (around 4.8W/kg) and really punch up the little incline after the KoM (around 6W/kg once more) to catch the faster moving "blob" of riders. Fortunately, after around 5 minutes of 5.5W/kg, the move was done and myself and one companion had bridged across and were in a group racing for 26th place at this point.
The race continued fairly steadily from there, we hoovered up some more riders who dropped from the front group, but were never close to catching the next group up the road. As we approached the KoM on the 6th and final lap, I started making my plans for how I was going to finish in the best possible position from this group.
I didn't have a feather power up for the climb, so knew that a breakaway at this point may be tough (not least of all because of the flatter terrain for the rest of the lap after the KoM). What I did try to do though, was put on a "painful" pace at the front, to try and take some of the sting out the my fellow riders legs before the sprint for the finish line.
As we crested the KoM, the power up Gods bestowed a feather upon me (a bit late perhaps, but something I could work with). The finish in Harrogate is far from a regular sprint as with 700m to go, you make a turn on to the final straight and are hit by a 10% incline for 100m or so which only really shallows to level with around 200m to the line. Being on the lighter side, and possessing the feather powerup (9.5kg lighter for 15s), this was where I would have to make my move.
As many will know from previous reports, my peak power and sprinting prowess is not my best asset, but I'm quite reasonable at holding a "good" power for up to a minute at the end of a long race. As we rounded the corner on to the home straight, I popped the feather and accelerated up to around 500W and tried to hold this for as long as my legs would allow. I remained in the pack as we crested the 10% bump, but my power didn't diminish much after this, whereas others dropped back somewhat. I passed a couple of riders who clearly ran out of steam before the finish line, and was only passed by one rider myself overall. This resulted in 23rd across the line.
I was pretty pleased with how most of the race went, with the only blemish being missing that gap on the first lap. It would definitely have been an interesting test of my capabilities to see if I could have stayed with the front group up the KoM each lap, but that is something to look forward to on another day.
A total of 43 riders in cat A completed the race (and were not DQ'd for data anomalies), a relatively low number compared to the 83 in the pen at the start of the race. My final ranking was 21st place. Congratulations to coach Ed Laverack on 2nd place for the event, only losing out to a monster sprint finish from the winner (check out his race stream here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eXS81gijqc&t=7975s&ab_channel=EdLaverack ) My average power for the race was 253W and Normalised Power 271W. I was fairly happy with my drafting in the race, but there's always better. Most of the KoMs were not raced particularly hard in our group (around the 5.1W/kg mark), which explains the fairly low punch score for the race. The bridging move saw the best 5 minute effort at around 5.4W/kg and the dash for the line was the best minute power at 6.9W/kg (far from ground breaking, but solid enough after two hours of racing). I do enjoy the longer races, and this one was a lot of fun to be in. Although being in the second group on the road was disappointing at the time, it did give me a chance to play the race a bit more tactically (something you can't always do when you're just "hanging on" at the front). I'm looking forward to surveying ZwiftPower later this week to see what long races are available for this weekend.
Until then... Ride On!